Big beers, big hills, big ideas


Buxton has long been a Beer52 favourite, consistently winning over our tasting panel with its big, bold beers. But it’s also been constantly surprising, pushing at the boundaries and collaborating with other creative breweries from around the world to bring us some of the most luxuriously odd brews we’ve ever featured. So when we started picking our tastemakers for 2021, founder Geoff Quinn was a shoe-in.

It’s been a couple of years since I last made it down to Buxton’s beautiful Peak District home, and it’s certainly been busy, even through lockdown. Geoff and his team have taken over the neighbouring building to increase brewing capacity, packaging and storage, and moved its offices from a somewhat rickety mezzanine above the brewhouse to a proper room with one of the best views I’ve ever seen from a brewery.

Buxton has provided two beers for this month’s box, the first of which, Nargil, is going to send shivers of joy for lovers of its dark beers. A coconut pastry stout, this brew is based on everything the brewery has learned about the style it helped pioneer in the UK, but taken in some interesting new directions.

“It’s inspired by the pastry stouts that have appeared over the last five years or so,” explains brewery manager Denis Johnstone. “As you know, we brewed one of the UK’s early pastry stouts, Yellowbelly, before they were really a thing. This one’s a bit different though, in that 6% is a much lower ABV than you’d usually expect from a pastry stout; they’ve been brewed that strong because they’re so sweet and thick that you’ve needed the alcohol in there too. 

“That flavour profile is still there, the same decadence and thickness, just adjusted for the lower ABV; it’s nice and thick, and the finishing gravity is a lot higher than we would normally have in a stout at that level. Another interesting twist for us is that we’ve not worked much with coconut before, but we’re really delighted with how it’s turned out. It will also make a really nice base beer to build on with extra flavours in the future, keeping it at that nice, accessible ABV.”

The second beer, Impatient is a NEIPA brewed using traditional kveik yeast; something else that’s relatively new to the UK, but which we believe will continue to be a strong trend through 2021.

“It was pretty nerve wracking, to be honest,” admits Denis. “It ferments a lot warmer than most ale yeasts, but it just feels really unnatural to let a beer get that hot. Normally, if a beer gets above 25 degrees, it’s panic stations, something’s broken and the beer’s potentially ruined. We’ve been fermenting this at 30 or 35. And then, because they’re so hot, fermentation is like a runaway train. 

“For us brewers, it’s an interesting spin and a different technique, which I think is the main reason a few people are using it now in the UK. You do wonder if it’s one of those slightly self-indulgent brewer-led trends like brut IPA, but people seem to be genuinely enjoying drinking it, so hopefully it will stick around. It definitely does something very interesting to the mouthfeel of the finished beer.”

While we’re talking trends, I’m keen to hear where the guys see the UK heading over the next 12 months.

Founder Geoff says: “I think IPAs are going to continue to evolve on from that split between the East Coast and the West Coast styles. The New England IPA has gone beyond just a trend now, and I think will be a permanent part of craft beer, but there’s definitely an appetite for more balance, in particular that bit of hop bitterness that keeps you coming back for sip after sip. So expect to see more of the middle ground, with really drinkable IPAs that combine good malt, tropical hop character and well balanced bitterness.

“Style trends aside… I mean, it’s not a good time to own a pub. But we’re optimistic and we’re looking forward to getting out this year. Hopefully the uncertainly and threat of Brexit will begin to subside too, and we can start exporting again. It’s not going to be an easy year, but hopefully breweries will be a little bit more in control again.”

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